Pure Joy

It is great to have time to sit and watch my grandchildren explore and discover their abilities and new things. When you are raising your own children you are so busy meeting their needs at times you forget to watch the joy that crosses their face in moments of discovery.

This summer I have gotten to spend more time than usual with the grands. It has been so fun just to watch them play and try new things. One moment in particular has been a treasure and I find myself thinking of it often.

Rowan, who was 10 months at the time, had been pulling up and walking around furniture holding on. Cruising is what we call it. But she was not satisfied with cruising. She wanted to try and stand up on her own from the middle of the floor. She had been practicing for weeks. She would sit in a catchers stance and bounce up and down, hoping to finally get to her feet. The magic happened, as it often does, when the rest of us were occupied in conversation, texting, or thinking about the things that need to be done. I had been watching her bounce up and down but had glanced away to take care of something else. I heard her squeal with delight. As I looked up, she was standing in the middle of the floor hands over head in victory. She had a look of pure joy on her face! She had accomplished her goal of standing without pulling up and she was delighted. Of course it was the time I didn’t have my camera, but the picture of her victory stance is etched in my mind. It was the beginning of many mobile adventures for her.

You can see in this picture that mom looked away and she climbed up the slide. If you look at her face, you can see the smile of accomplishment.

Little one may you always be willing to dare to try. May you scale the mountains in life with the determination and enthusiasm of childhood. May you find in every endeavor, pure joy!

From Bedtime Story to Reality

One of my favorite stories to read to my two daughters was, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst.

Poor Alexander’s day does not start well. He wakes with gum in his hair, gets his sweater soaked when he drops it in the sink, and at breakfast his brothers find toy surprises in their cereal boxes and he only find cereal in his. The day does not get better as the teacher praises his friends picture and not his, one of his friends does not choose him to be his best friend and mom forgot to pack a dessert for lunch. On and on it goes. All through the book Alexander wishes he lived in Australia because he is sure that life would be better there.

While this is a funny story, the truth of it is there are just days, months, and maybe years like this. Running away to Australia or anywhere else will not keep bad days from us. This story reminds me of another story about three friends who lived in a far away land in a long distant past. These three young men had grown up together and lived a privileged life for their time. Then one day their land was invaded and they were drug off to another far off land and put into the service of the king. Their names were changed and they were forced to learn a new language. These young men were found to be wiser than those the king had surrounded himself with and they were put into the king’s service. So you may think things were working out for them, but alas it was not to be. Others working for the king were jealous of the influence and success of these foreigners, so they plotted against them. In order to flatter the king they convinced him to build and idol of himself that all people would bow down to and worship. Our three friends chose not to bow to the idol but rather worship their God. The king was informed of their treason and he had the three men brought before him. They truthfully stated that they worshipped only their God. In a fit of rage, the king had these three men thrown into a furnace. The furnace was made 7 times hotter than normal and the men who carried our friends to the furnace were killed because of its intensity. Things did not look well for our three friends. However, when the king looked into the furnace he saw not only the three young men but one who looked like the son of God. The king opened the door and let the young men out. After an examination of the men the king made a decree that no one was to speak against these young men’s God. If they did there would be dire consequences.

Real Life

You might not be in an actual furnace but life might seem that tough right now. Maybe you have lost a loved one, a job, or you find yourself in difficult monetary circumstances with no obvious way out, maybe you have a crisis of health going on. At times, life is just hard. Jesus said that in this world you will have trouble. You might read this and be thinking that Jesus understated it a little bit.

My furnace is watching my husband lose weight as his inoperable tumor will cause him to waste away. If the medicine he will take does not slow the tumor down, it will cause his body not to be able to absorb nutrition and eventually it will take his life. It is hard to be helpless. Even though we do all we can with nutrition, it may not be enough and in the end we know it will not.

Whatever your furnace is, it is just as dire as mine. It is impacting your life in ways that no one else will understand. But take heart. God did not leave our three friends alone in the furnace, he stood with them in the midst of the furnace. Whether you believe this story to be fact (and I do) or just a story to illustrate a life lesson (and I do) it gives us hope. God stands with us in the midst of our trials. Jesus gives me the strength to face each day even, the days of heartache. All of John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Romans 8:5 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? The answer is none of these. God may not rescue my husband from this cancer, but God will walk the journey with us, giving strength for each new day. God will do that for you too!

Like our three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God did not save them from the pain of the furnace but entered the furnace with them. Yes, they came out unscathed, but they came out changed. They experienced the heat of the furnace. The heat changed them in some way. Perhaps it made them tougher men or their faith stronger. Maybe they would look back at that defining moment and take heart the next time trouble came knocking at their door. There will be an end to the trials that we face. We go through them. That word “through” means we enter and then we leave. Trials are not forever. I face mine because God meets me daily in my furnace and He can for you too.

Our friend, Alexander, will have many more bad days in his life, but there will be good ones too!

Cooking in the Texas Hill Country

A Christmas gift given last year started my youngest daughter and I on a culinary journey into the Texas hill country this August. We left the babies and husbands behind and drove south to Waco for our first stop. Since we left late evening, we found our hotel and settled in for one night. Our toughest decision was how early to rise. It would be Elizabeth’s first night in a long time not being attached to a baby monitor. We settled on 7:00 and turned out the light.

By 8:00 we were drinking coffee and sitting in a courtyard waiting our turn at the table.

The coffee was delicious and within no time we were being paged to come into the restaurant, Magnolia Table. A delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash brown puffs, and biscuits with jalapeño drip jam was set before us.

After fortifying ourselves with this hearty meal with made our way down to the now famous Silos to check out all the decor for sale.

Needless to say we came home with one or two treasures and decorating ideas for a project or two in the future.

We didn’t shop long because we had a few miles to go to reach our destination for the next days. I got to race down a toll road at 85 miles an hour out in the middle of nowhere just south of Austin for about 100 miles. Slowing down when we came off to travel the backroads of the hill country made it seem like we were crawling along. After winding our way up and down farm to market roads we arrived at Blair House Inn.

We hurriedly checked into our room and got ready for the first step in our adventure, cooking tonight’s dinner with the chef. Elizabeth and I had been enrolled in the BBQ Cooking School at the Inn. So over the next three days we would be making breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with 6 other classmates for ourselves and guests of the Inn. No pressure, right?!

Our chef, Chris Huffman, gave quick introductions and then we were put to work immediately preparing that nights dinner: smoked salmon with mango avocado salsa, corn bisque, and Shiner Bock Bread. We finished off with a Jalapeño mint sorbet. Of course we prepped for meals the next day.

Elizabeth and I prepared the corn bisque which required a lot of vegetable chopping and sautéing. While we were working on this others were making creme fresh brining chicken soaking beans, beginning the custard for an ice cream, and preparing the brisket to be smoked.

At dinner we held our breath as our corn bisque was served first. It was delicious and we must have followed the recipe correctly because it was what most people said they would go home and cook first. Whew! Wish I had thought to take a picture.

We shared this adventure with 6 others. Our classmates came from as far away as Canada and Alaska and as close as only an hour away from the Inn. Each were interesting and we enjoyed getting to know everyone.

We ate all our meals family style, sharing stories and discussing the food, relating how we followed the recipe or changed it according to chef’s instructions. Our evenings were spent either going to bed early or by the pool. The stars are incredible and just like the song from my childhood,” the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas” it is true. Wildlife was abundant. There was a little resident fox, deer, and a bobcat that toured the property. Each meal was delicious and I gained 3 lbs!

Our last meal prep was for a picnic to be eaten on our field trip to an olive grove. We were treated to a tour of Bella Vista Ranch and learned more information about olives and how to grow them than I could possibly remember. Jack Dougherty who originally grew up in the orchards of California bought a old run down ranch in Texas. He planted the first olive grove in Texas and proceeded the one in Queen Creek in Arizona which is the only other olive grove I have visited. He runs cattle, raises grapes for wine, olives, figs, and other Mediterranean vegetables.

The only picture I have of Jack is one I took inside and he asked me not to publish it. All things are secret in this business you know. His olive oil is delicious and so is the balsamic vinegar I purchased which has fig incorporated into it.

The Texas hill country is full of bed and breakfasts and small boutique businesses. Wimberley, Texas is worth your time exploring.

I loved all the food we made. It was great to spend time and share this adventure with my youngest daughter. I highly recommend the experience for all you cooks out there!

Time to Breathe

I must say that I am fortunate. I live where the view is like living in a park. I gaze out on the commons area of our housing development. The prior owners of our house planted gardens around the entire house. Our job has been to help return them to their former glory. It is much easier when you do not start from scratch. My husband loves birds. Because of his passion I enjoy birdsong most of the day and a variety of feathered friends find their way to our feeders. My favorite room in the house is the screened-in porch where I can take in the landscape and listen to the chirping and whirring sounds of God’s creatures. This setting offers moments of quiet contemplation. It helps bring to life

Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Our lives have been so busy with work, vacations, and doctor visits. July whirled passed me in a blur even as I tried to live in the moment. I must say there was little down time to practice the first two words of this familiar Psalm–“Be still”. The psalmist did not write this as a suggestion. Rather it is an imperative, something we are commanded to do.

Our culture fills our lives with many activities. If you have children you are naturally busy meeting their needs and taking them places. Then of course there is just the every day stuff that you have to do to keep everything going in your life. You know, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, paying the bills, and at this time of year, getting the kids ready to go back to school. Time to be still gets crowded out by the seemingly urgent activities presented daily to us. We get worn down by work and the cares of this world. We get worn down by trying to do our best to meet the seemingly endless demands of things that want our attention. It can be exhausting!

So for the last few days after we returned home, I have tried to practice the command–be still. I am not just to be still for stillness sake, but rather be still, and know that I am God. I am to sit still in God’s presence and know Him. Stop the busyness and focus on my creator. James 4:8 says, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Rather than just shooting prayers up along the way, I have stopped to consider God, after all He is a God of relationship. This has not been easy. It is hard to stop your mind from spinning away on thoughts that buzz through unexpectedly. I had to keep reminding myself to “just breathe”. Sometimes, over and over again. After two or three days of carving out time to just sit and contemplate, it has become easier to consider life from the Father’s perspective. I have focused on God the creator, for the beauty of nature surrounds me. I have focused on Jesus, the lover of my soul, for no once cares for me like He does. I have focused on God, my savior and redeemer, for He rescues us from the trials of this life. I remember that earth is not my home, I am just passing through.

When I sit still and consider Him, He surrounds me with His presence. His Spirit re-energizes me enabling me to go forward again into the busyness of life. He makes the hard moments bearable and the future not so bleak. He calms my heart and reminds me that my fears come from the enemy. Like that popular song by Zach Williams, “Fear is a Liar”.

Song by ZachWilliams

LYRICS

When he told you you’re not good enough

3 When he told you you’re not right

4 When he told you you’re not strong enough

5 To put up a good fight

6 When he told you you’re not worthy

7 When he told you you’re not loved

8 When he told you you’re not beautiful

9 That you’ll never be enough
Fear, he is a liar

10 He will take your breath

11 Stop you in your steps

12 Fear he is a liar

13 He will rob your rest

14 Steal your happiness

15 Cast your fear in the fire

16 ‘Cause fear he is a liar
When he told you were troubled

17 You’ll forever be alone

18 When he told you you should run away

19 You’ll never find a home

20 When he told you you were dirty

21 And you should be ashamed

22 When he told you you could be the one

23 That grace could never change
Fear he is a liar

24 He will take your breath

25 Stop you in your steps

26 Fear he is a liar

27 He will rob your rest

28 Steal your happiness

29 Cast your fear in the fire

30 ‘Cause fear he is a liar
Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears

31 Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears

32 Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears

33 Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Oh, let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears

34 Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Oh, fear he is a liar

35 He will take your breath

36 Stop you in your steps

37 Fear he is a liar

38 He will rob your rest

39 Steal your happiness

40 Cast your fear in the fire

41 ‘Cause fear he is a liar
‘Cause fear he is a liar

Songwriters: Jason Ingram / Zach Williams / Jonathan Lindley Smith
Fear Is a Liar lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Essential Music Publishing

I encourage you, dear reader, to carve out a few moments to just breathe, to consider to whom you belong, to build a relationship with a God who loves you more than you and I can fathom.

Living with the Enemy!

Life has many turns in the journey. There are easy times when it seems that there are no cares in the world, others become an uphill climb. The road of life twists and turns. Most are good and fun, but any life is not without its hard moments. Usually hard times come for a season and then life evens out again. But what do you do when the enemy moves in, sets up camp, and plans to stay– maybe forever?

That is where we are now. Learning to live with enemy-Cancer. For about 23 years on and off Glenn has had some sort of cancer appear in his body. Of course the first major cancer was 24 years ago when by God’s grace we discovered he had a tumor in his kidney. Renal cell carcinoma is often called the silent killer because you don’t know it is there until it is too late. Glenn had his kidney removed and was tested each year for 7 years. There was no evidence of cancer. After 19 years you begin to feel secure. God has helped you beat this thing. I am forever grateful for those 19 years. We raised our girls together, grew older together, and enjoyed life.

But then one day you find that what you thought had been eradicated from your body has been silently growing inside again. This time the procedure is not so easy. To take out the cancer they have to rearrange your insides. The surgery is major and you are no young thing anymore. Glenn had a procedure done called the “whipple” which took out parts of his gastrointestinal system and rearranged it. I am happy to say he recovered well. But this cancer has not gone away. It returned 2 years later as a tumor in his lung. Now we find it has camped out in what is left of his pancreas and made itself at home.

We made a trip to MD Anderson this July and stayed for about 2 weeks. We learned a lot. For one thing at present there is no other cancer at this time in Glenn’s body except the tumor in his pancreas. Good news. This type of cancer does not normally go to the brain or the bone. More good news. His tumor, however, is too large to be resected. Cyber knife radiation is too dangerous in this area due to the number of blood vessels and arteries. Cryo oblation can’t happen because the tumor grew to large before detected. Bad news. The cancer is already in the blood stream which we knew because of the tumor in the lung. Treatment option: treat systemically with votrant. Votrant is supposed to encapsulate the tumor and cut off the blood supply and for any new cancer cells out there it would keep them from developing blood supplies.

The news was not all that we wanted. The cancer is sticking around. Glenn will be taking medicine to keep it in bounds and take enzymes to aid in digestion. He is also going on an insulin pump to help keep better control of his insulin. Glenn is in relative good health and is still teaching 1/4 time for the university. We have trips planned and life for the large part is good. To go forward you must make peace with what is and trust that God is in control. We are thankful for each day. We are thankful for each of you that prays for us.

Life at best has always been uncertain. We often retain a false sense of security in this world. But when the enemy moves in and sets up residence you begin to appreciate the fragility of life. Our hope is in God and right now I am thankful He is in charge.

Time on My Hands

This summer has passed in a whirlwind it seems.  I am not sure where July went but it is almost gone seeing that today is July 30.  My husband I were gone from home 22 days.  When we returned it seemed that we missed July.  Not really, we just experienced it from different venues.

Our first adventure was a family trip to the Great Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee over the 4th of July week. We started our journey with a trip to see family members in Little Rock, Arkansas, Robert and Diane Skinner and their little dog Gus. We took a trip out to their garden located in the Arkansas River bottom.

As long as I have known Bob Skinner he has been gardening. This year he partnered with a friend from church to share a plot of land in the river bottom of the Arkansas river. Many of the plots have been held by the same people for years. They have sheds and fences along with huge fig trees that have been there for a long time. We helped our friends harvest tomatoes and squash for our dinner that evening.

Gus is their rescue dog. He has been a member of the family for about 5 years now. He eventually got used to us so he got to stay for the visit and did not have to go to the doggy hotel. I guess he has stranger anxiety. Bob and Diane like company, so they sometimes put Gus up in the doggy daycare while company is in town. We were happy to say that did not have to happen on our visit.

We left our family friends and headed off to Nashville where we would meet up with the younger members of the crew. Our meeting place was the Nashville Botanical Center. We arrived just in time for lunch.

Fortunately the gardens were hosting food trucks that day. We all enjoyed ham and cheese crepes as we sat in the shade. We arrived just before the end of lunch and were glad we did. The crepes were delicious!

I love visiting gardens when we travel. It seems that there is always something interesting and beautiful to see. The Nashville gardens were hosting a crack plastic event. An artist made very colorful animals from recycled plastic and placed them around the garden. We enjoyed posing with them while waiting on the others to arrive.

The youngest of our family enjoyed playing among the bears, but alas I have no picture. How did that happen?

We all continued on to our Airbnb for the night near downtown Nashville. Our dinner

was great BBQ. We had fun especially since Martin is the last name of our younger family members, so of course hats and T-shirts were a must for them. We got there before the rush and enjoyed a great meal. Good thing too. They sale out every night.

We headed downtown to breakfast at Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant before checking out the music hall and walk of fame while playing a city scavenger hunt.

We continued our journey east to Gatlinburg. A late dinner and off to bed because tomorrow would be a busy day.

While in Gatlinburg enjoyed the Aquarium with the babies, took a tram ride up the mountain, droves to Cade’s Cove in the Smokey Mountains, and went to Dollyworld. We watched fireworks from our balcony and basically enjoyed the nature the mountains afford.

On Friday everyone headed in different directions. After putting Christi on a plane for Arizona we waved goodbye to the younger crew who headed to friends in Mississippi. We traveled northwest to St. Louis to visit with my nephew and his wife. We love St. Louis and we love seeing our family there. Glenn has all those pictures and has not shared. But ate crepes there too and indulged in Nitrogen ice-cream. Toured the St. Louis gardens then headed home.

We arrived home on Sunday evening. Monday we unpacked our clothes and washed them only to return them to our suitcases. That part of the journey is another tale.